Anita O’Day, who died Nov. 23 after a battle with pneumonia, may have been the last of the great Swing Era songbirds. She had a unique, rhythmically complex, instantly recognizable vocal style that was suitable for both smoky, wee-hours cabarets and exuberant daylight performances, like her unforgettable turn at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, preserved in the classic concert film Jazz on a Summer’s Day. (You can see clips from her Newport performance here and here.) She was still singing in 2006 at age 87, releasing the appropriately titled Indestructable! (Listen to snippets of it here.) Her already limited vocal range compressed even further by age and hard living, she still could swing like nobody else. Her own website tells most of the story; NPR has a comprehensive interview and audio profile. Her catalog of releases from Verve, the label she was most closely associated with, is here. Watch for a full-length documentary, Anita O’Day: The Life of A Jazz Singer, in 2007.
addCredit(“Anita O’Day: Walter Daran/Hulton Archive/Getty Images”)